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Fanning the flames: understanding viral content after brand transgressions

Fanning the flames: understanding viral content after brand transgressions This paper aims to contribute to the emerging body of research on firestorms, specifically on the inflammatory user-generated content (UGC) created in response to brand transgressions. By analyzing and segmenting UGC created and shared in the wake of three different events, the authors identify which type of inflammatory message is most likely to be widely shared; thus, contributing to a possible online firestorm.Design/methodology/approachTweets were collected involving brand transgressions in the retail, fast food and technology space from varying timeframe and diverse media coverage. Then, the tweets were coded for message intention and analyzed with linguistics software to determine the message characteristics and framing. A two-step cluster analysis identified three types of UGC.FindingsThe authors found that message dimensions and the framing of tweets in the context of brand transgressions differed in characteristics, sentiment, call to action and the extent to which the messages were shared. The findings contradict traditional negative word-of-mouth studies involving idiosyncratic service and product failure. During online brand firestorms, rational activism messages with a call to action, generated in response to a firm’s transgression or “sparks,” have a higher likelihood of being shared (virality).Originality/valueThis research provides novel insights into UGC created after brand transgressions. Different types of messages created after these events vary in the extent that they “fan the flames” of the transgression. A message typology and flowchart are provided to assist managers in identifying and responding to three message types: ash, sparks and embers. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Consumer Marketing Emerald Publishing

Fanning the flames: understanding viral content after brand transgressions

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References (65)

Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
© Emerald Publishing Limited
ISSN
0736-3761
eISSN
0736-3761
DOI
10.1108/jcm-02-2021-4473
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This paper aims to contribute to the emerging body of research on firestorms, specifically on the inflammatory user-generated content (UGC) created in response to brand transgressions. By analyzing and segmenting UGC created and shared in the wake of three different events, the authors identify which type of inflammatory message is most likely to be widely shared; thus, contributing to a possible online firestorm.Design/methodology/approachTweets were collected involving brand transgressions in the retail, fast food and technology space from varying timeframe and diverse media coverage. Then, the tweets were coded for message intention and analyzed with linguistics software to determine the message characteristics and framing. A two-step cluster analysis identified three types of UGC.FindingsThe authors found that message dimensions and the framing of tweets in the context of brand transgressions differed in characteristics, sentiment, call to action and the extent to which the messages were shared. The findings contradict traditional negative word-of-mouth studies involving idiosyncratic service and product failure. During online brand firestorms, rational activism messages with a call to action, generated in response to a firm’s transgression or “sparks,” have a higher likelihood of being shared (virality).Originality/valueThis research provides novel insights into UGC created after brand transgressions. Different types of messages created after these events vary in the extent that they “fan the flames” of the transgression. A message typology and flowchart are provided to assist managers in identifying and responding to three message types: ash, sparks and embers.

Journal

Journal of Consumer MarketingEmerald Publishing

Published: Jul 25, 2022

Keywords: Firestorms; User-generated content (UGC); Brand transgressions; Digital consumer activism; Social media; Virality; Typology; Twitter; Word-of-mouth; Moral outrage

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